Alpine to evaluate early Piastri F1 release next week

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In the wake of the Contract Recognition Board deciding that Alpine has no claims to the Australian for next year, it has been confirmed that he will be joining McLaren in 2023.

For now, Piastri remains as Alpine’s official reserve driver – and he is continuing to work with the Enstone-based squad in its simulator over this weekend.

But with his future being elsewhere, and him joining one of Alpine’s main rivals, there remains little to gain from the squad keeping him on board and learning about the team’s technical progress.

One option is simply to end ties now, which could even make Piastri a complete free agent so he could start work with McLaren early.

Asked about the situation, Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer said: “He’s with us this weekend, doing simulator work and he’ll continue this weekend.

“There’s only a couple of days left, today and tomorrow. And then on Monday we will get together with him and decide how we go forward.”

He added: “We’ll decide on Monday. We’ll decide then. I don’t want to think about it here. Because there’s more considerations to be had.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal, Alpine F1, Pat Fry

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

While Szafnauer had been confident before the CRB hearing about Alpine having rights to Piastri, he said his stance slightly changed when he heard McLaren’s testimony.

“Going into it, I didn’t know all the arguments on the other side,” he said. “Thereafter. I mean, it took four days as everybody knows: there were good arguments on both sides.

“Walking out, I thought it was about 50/50. You know, as it turned out, they didn’t rule in our favour. So I would have accepted either way.”

‘Bizarre’ sim moment

One of the most controversial aspects of the Piastri affair was Alpine’s decision to announce him as a 2023 race driver, despite it being made clear to the squad that he would not be racing for it.

Asked why, in the wake of being told by Piastri’s management team that he planned to race elsewhere, the team went ahead with the announcement, Szafnauer said: “Well, at that point, we’re having discussions with Oscar and we were under the impression that the contractual arrangements we had with Oscar were valid, and that we didn’t have the [need for] the CRB. So that’s the reason for it.”

Szafnauer revealed last weekend that Piastri was told about the announcement going out while he was working at the team’s simulator.

That moment has been described as “bizarre” and “upsetting” by Piastri himself, because it put him in an awkward spot in front of other team members.

Pushed to clarify exactly what happened, Szafnauer said: “What I can tell and reiterate what I said before: Oscar was in the simulator. When he finished his simulator session. I went and told him of the release and to congratulate him. He smiled and said thank you.

“Were there a group of people there? I can tell you no, it was myself and the simulator technician who would happen to be in the same room.

“But if you’ve ever seen a simulator, it’s a pretty big room: as big as it is here [in the Zandvoort press conference room]. There were three of us in that room. So it wasn’t a group of people. It wasn’t bizarre and he smiled and said thank you.”

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